Cablegate: Media Reaction: Aftermath of Taiwan's Presidential


DE RUEHIN #0439/01 0860853
R 260853Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
news coverage March 26 on the aftermath of Taiwan's presidential
election last Saturday, including the caretaker government's plans
before president-elect Ma Ying-jeou's inauguration on May 20;
possible personnel arrangements for the new cabinet and the defeated
DPP, respectively; the White House's and State Department's
responses to Ma's wish to visit the U.S.; and the U.S. government's
expectations for future cross-Strait relations, as spelled out by
State Department Taiwan Affairs Coordinator Douglas Spelman Tuesday.
Also, almost all papers reported on a Pentagon announcement Monday,
which said it had mistakenly shipped non-nuclear ballistic missile
components to Taiwan in 2006, thinking they were helicopter
batteries that Taiwan had ordered.

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an op-ed in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" said that both sides across the
Strait are likely to deal with economic issues first after Ma takes
the helm on May 20, while political issues will remain unresolved
because of their complexity and sensitivity. An op-ed in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times," written by a
western writer based in Taipei, discussed the developments of
cross-Strait relations in the wake of Ma's inauguration. The
article said "armament/disarmament in the Taiwan Strait is becoming
increasingly intertwined with the greater dynamics of the regional
arms race, pitting the U.S. and its allies in Northeast Asia against
China." A "Taipei Times" editorial, on the other hand, called on Ma
to push for a Cabinet proposal seeking a legislative resolution on
Taiwan's bid to join the UN. End summary.

A) "It Bodes Well for [Future] Economic [Interactions] but Ill for
Political [Relations] across the Taiwan Strait"

Barry Chen, a professor at the Graduate Institute of American
Studies of Chinese Culture University and a visiting scholar at
Beijing Union University, opined in the mass-circulation "Apple
Daily" [circulation: 520,000] (3/26):

"Ma Ying-jeou's landslide victory and the failed passage of the UN
referenda, with which Beijing was highly concerned, have greatly
inspired the cross-Strait peaceful development roadmap advocated by
[Chinese President] Hu Jintao. [Beijing's] major burdens and doubts
have been removed, even though Beijing's official reaction has been
low-profile and cautious. Beijing is waiting to see what Ma
Ying-jeou will announce in his May 20 inauguration speech and pay
attention to staff appointments on Ma's national security team,
including mainland affairs, foreign affairs and defense, then make a
formal and complete response. However, Beijing has noticed that Ma
Ying-jeou has said several times in local and international press
conferences that he will use the 1992 consensus as the basis for
cross-Strait negotiations, and both sides [across the Strait] will
have different interpretations of the one-China principle. [Ma's]
remarks at least have reduced Beijing's worries. The circumstances
are definitely better than the time when Chen Shui-bian was elected
in 2000. ...

"Ma Ying-jeou's first priority after taking office is to deal with
the issues of the economy and people's livelihood. The Chinese
Communists' 17th [CPC National Congress] has also emphasized that
social [matters] and people's livelihood problems are the first
administrative priorities. As a result, both sides across the
Strait will enter into an interactive model of "economy first;
politics later." It is unlikely that Ma's ideas can come to
fruition in his initiatives in the short or mid-term, including
terminating the hostile footing, peaceful negotiations, a
"ceasefire" in foreign affairs, and establishing military
confidence-building measures. It is because these issues are all
wrapped up in complicated issues such as the constitution,
sovereignty and territory, national character, security and
interests. Each sides [across the Strait] has its own calculation
and its own internal pressures. How could it be easy? ...

"... History is giving both authorities a window of opportunity.
[We] should seize the opportunity. However, a gradual but not rapid
or impetuous way is safer and sounder than a swift way for courting
success. It also assures long-term peace."

B) "Washington Celebrates, but Others Are Fretful"

J. Michael Cole, a writer based in Taipei, opined in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] (3/26):

"Given the recent tensions between President Chen Shui-bian and US
President George W. Bush and the US State Department's vociferous
opposition to Taiwan's referendums on joining the UN, if does not
come as a surprise that Washington would welcome the win on Saturday
by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou, who has
been portrayed as less of a 'troublemaker' than Chen or Democratic

Progressive Party candidate Frank Hsieh. But no sooner had the last
ballot been counted than a handful of US conservatives were raising
the specter of some rapprochement between Taipei and Beijing (an
'unhealthy pro-China' stance,' one called it). Among them and
responsible for the above quote was Dan Blumenthal, a former
Pentagon official, who questioned what the KMT win would mean to the
US-Taiwan alliance. He recommended that Bush's legacy to Taiwan be
ensuring that Taiwan receives the F-16 fighter aircraft it has been
prevented from buying, as well as diesel submarines, among other

"What this shows us, less than 24 hours after the vote, is that the
conservatives in Washington do not see the prospect of less tension
in the Taiwan Strait favorably, as this could threaten: one, the US
alliance with Taiwan, in which the latter is increasingly starting
to look (at least from Beijing's perspective) like it is part of the
master plan to contain and encircle China to ensure that it does not
reach regional, of not global, primacy, and two, those in the US
defense establishment who stand to profit from continued weapons
sales to Taiwan. ... Blumenthal and others may not be wrong in
their assessment that a Ma presidency is unlikely to change much in
the Taiwan Strait conflict -- I agree with that position -- but
their immediate reflex to worry about arms sales even before
attempts at some form of peace talks have been made shows where
their true priorities lie. ...

"What this means is that armament/disarmament in the Taiwan Strait
is becoming increasingly intertwined with the greater dynamics of
the regional arms race pitting the US and its allies in Northeast
Asia against China. The more Taiwan is seen to be part of the
encirclement of China (much as the 'new democracy' Kosovo, which,
now that Washington will be selling it weapons, will be part of the
encirclement of Russia), the more difficult it will be resolve the
question of Taiwan peacefully, regardless of who is in office in

C) "Ma Should Heed EU Lawmakers' Call"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (3/26):

"Last Wednesday, 100 members of the European Parliament reiterated
their support for Taiwan's bid to join the UN. The news was largely
overshadowed by election fever in the final days of campaigning,
despite the strength of the statement in the "European Voice," an
independent newspaper that documents EU developments, and the fact
that Taiwan was preparing to vote on two referendum proposals
concerning UN membership. The parliamentarians went further than
acknowledging the long-ignored fact that Beijing's seat at the UN
does not represent Taiwan's people and interests. Their statement
said Taiwan has never been controlled by the People's Republic of
China and that it is a sovereign country. ...

"The statement by EU lawmakers reflected the principles that the
countries they represent so often tout -- equal representation, an
integral aspect of democracy and human rights. The governments of
those same countries, meanwhile, remain silent on the issue of
Taiwan, or else toe Beijing's line. Taiwan cannot afford to echo
that silence. The nation has missed a chance to make itself heard
and now must focus on minimizing the damage. It must not leave this
heartening statement by EU parliamentarians unanswered. As
president-elect Ma Ying-jeou nears his inauguration date, he should
consider how to make up for this loss. The cards are stacked in
Ma's favor. He will have an absolute majority in the legislature
ready to back any Cabinet proposal. And in light of statements he
and his party made in the months leading to the election, failing to
take action could only be interpreted as duplicitous.

"Topping the agenda for Ma becoming president should be a Cabinet
proposal for a legislative resolution underscoring what EU
parliamentarians so eloquently proclaimed last week: Taiwan is not
the People's Republic of China. As such, it is denied
representation at the UN but should continue to seek to break out of
its international isolation. These statements that are not
controversial in Taiwan and the legislature should pass them
unanimously. The issue of the nation's ideal title at the UN is not
vital to a legislative proposal. Unnecessary controversy should be
avoided in favor of garnering a unanimous vote that would amplify
the resolution's significance in light of the legislature's fierce
divide. ..."


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